We all want to be liked.
But if you had to choose between being liked, admired, respected, or trusted which would you choose?
If you could only pick one, would you rather have a boss that you liked, that you admired, that you respected, or that you trusted?
What about if you are a manager or HR recruiter interviewing potential job candidates. Could you, would you, hire someone who – on a personal level – you trusted to do the job…but didn’t really like?
These terms are definitely not mutually exclusive. And, ideally we’d like to be – and associate with – someone who possesses all four of these highly positive traits.
But what about when they come into conflict with one another?
Whose lead would you choose to follow?
Let’s say that you were assigned to a 5-person project team with four other people.
1. Alan is someone you really LIKE on a personal level. He’s a good guy, friendly, fun, personable, and you enjoy being in his company. But he’s kind of a class clown who others often make fun of, so you don’t really admire the fact that people don’t take him seriously, respect, or trust him on a professional level.
2. Betty you don’t really like that much on a personal level as she’s not really that friendly or warm towards you, but you ADMIRE her impressive background, advanced degree, and career accomplishments. As she doesn’t treat you or others with respect, you don’t have much respect for her in return, and are not sure if you really trust her.
3. Chris is not that friendly either, and you don’t really admire the fact that he got his job through an internal personal connection, leapfrogging over others who’ve been here longer and were more deserving. But you RESPECT the fact that he’s overcome numerous personal and professional obstacles to get as far as he has in his career despite these setbacks.
4. And Diane is someone who, upon first meeting, you don’t really like, admire, or respect based on what you’ve heard about her through the grapevine. But she is super-smart, has an amazing, unparalleled track record of success, and you TRUST that when it comes to getting things done, compared to everyone else on the team, there’s no one better.
So, based on the above brief descriptions, if you had to elect a team leader from this group (i.e., someone other than yourself), who would it be – and why? Is it the person you most like, admire, respect…or trust?
Sometimes as leaders we need to make tough decisions that not everyone’s going to like – or like us for. And, while it is nice when people admire us for our past accomplishments that’s all it is: a nice-to-have. Most importantly, we want people to respect us – our intelligence, our judgement, our integrity, etc. – and, ideally, to trust us.
But what is “trust” anyway?
In my leadership workshops and NYU “Leadership and Team Building” class, when we discuss the characteristics, traits, and qualities of effective leaders, the word “trust” inevitably comes up near the top of the list. But what do we mean by it?
That is such an often-asked question that out of the roughly one million entries in the English dictionary, according to Mirriam-Webster.com., “trust” is listed as the 102nd most commonly looked up word.
And when you look up the word “trust,” there are numerous definitions but they all basically have to do with “belief” and/or confidence. Belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc., and the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.
From a word origin perspective, “trust” and “truth” have the same root, and are both related to the concept of “belief”:
- Do you believe that this person is telling the truth?
- Do you believe that this person will follow-through on what they say they are going to do?
- Do you believe that this person will follow-up with you as promised?
- Do you believe that this person will keep his or her commitments?
- Do you believe that this person can be held accountable for meeting or exceeding expectations?
- Do you believe, from a leadership perspective, that this person is someone you would voluntarily choose to follow?
How can YOU gain the trust of others?
The best way to gain others’ trust…is to be “trustworthy.” That’s obvious. But it means exhibiting the qualities that you would want in a job candidate, a teammate, or a leader:
- Be truthful
- Be transparent
- Be authentic
- Be accountable
- Take ownership
- Keep promises
- Follow up
- Follow through
- Do what you say
- And say what you do
So the next time you are deciding whether a person is someone you should hire, or whose leadership you would choose to follow, keep in mind that while it would be nice if you liked, admired, and respected them…it is most important that you trust them.
Similarly, while it is great to be liked, feels good to be admired, and an honor to be respected, ultimately, the key to building relationships and gaining followership is to build trust.